It always started with a piece of roast beef…the most expensive, central part of the meal.
Then came the carrots, cut into chunks, not coins. Potatoes and onions, peeled and quartered. Cabbage, halved.
And nothing else.
All in one pot, for hours.
This simplicity of this meal betrayed the weight of its meaning.
New England boiled dinner, prepared by my mother every New Year’s Eve, to be consumed at midnight.
Every single year, at midnight.
Dick Clark’s voice in the background, steaming broth, carrots, potatoes, roast beef, onions, and cabbage in front of us.
“No matter what this year brings,” my mother would say, “we will have started it off with a full stomach.”
She is from a family where this was a genuine concern.
I am from a family where this was a genuine concern.
There were many nights when my mother wouldn’t eat dinner with us. She’d wave us off, claiming she wasn’t hungry or she had had a late lunch. She would sit and ask us about school, tell us bits about her day.
But we saw her. In the kitchen where she had carried our plates, eating straggling string beans, abandoned peas, the tough piece of meat that we pushed aside, the crust from our bread.
We saw her.
But, on New Year’s Eve, the roast was so tender that the gentle nudge of a spoon would break it.
The carrots, potatoes, onions, cabbage, plentiful.
We ate bowls full of New England boiled dinner.
My mother sacrificed so much so that we would feel the bite of having not enough just a little bit less.
No matter what the year ultimately brought, we had started it off with plenty.
Thank you, Mom, for each and every sacrifice you made for us. I will never forget all that you tried to shield us from.